Last week I presented to a crowd of over 60 people at the The Center at Eastman, in Grantham, NH. The talk was after dinner and I worried a little about keeping the audience’s attention. In public speaking class I was told to always avoid the “after dinner talk” as people tend to be tired and have trouble staying focused. I purposely didn’t structure my words ahead of time. I had slides ready to cue me to different stories and I told them off the top of my head without notes in order to keep the discussion on a lighter and hopefully more engaged level. After about 45 minutes I wrapped up and asked for questions. As usual, the first few were very factually based — “Did you find your mother’s star?” “Is your mother still alive and where does she live?” “Are you going to write any more books?” And then the youngest person in the audience (a high-school-aged young woman) asked me a question. “Has writing this book changed how you think about the Holocaust?” It was a good question. And an unexpected one. I had to stop and think and formulate my thoughts. I hope my answer was coherent. I’ve been thinking about my answer for a few days now and, while I still agree with what I initially said, I would like to expand it a bit. My answer is this — I used to think that the Holocaust was history, something from the past, something that had happened and then was over. But since working on Tutti’s Promise and simultaneously being aware of current world events and the global political climate, I realize I was wrong. The Holocaust is not over, because the human race hasn’t learned. We are still labeling people and singling out different groups. We still tend to classify people as one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them.’ We are willing to assume, judge, blame, and punish. The prejudice of the Holocaust isn’t finished. It has just shifted and humans are still willing to restrict, ignore, hurt, and kill people who we see as less deserving than or less human than ourselves. While there are no mass extermination centers in the world right now, there is mass prejudice and division. Be it liberal vs. conservative, rich vs. poor, black vs. white, straight vs. LGBTQA, corporations vs. Native Americans, Christian vs. Muslim, or Nazi vs. Jew, the world is still dealing with us vs. them, and as long as that continues there will always be the potential of another genocide. We murdered six million in central Europe, 800,000 in Rwanda, 200,000 in Guatemala, over 500,000 in Darfur, two million in Cambodia, and over 5,000 along the Trail of Tears in the USA. When will we learn? When will we stop?
To learn more about genocide see:
*“If I am not for myself who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
-Hillel the Elder, 1st Century, BCE